One of the great challenges and delights of the Christian life is learning to truly know God and to relate to him in the fullness of his multifaceted character. We live to please the judge, though free in the gift of his justification. We seek to obey his law, but only in his strength and in response to his forgiveness. We offer our whole selves to the King of Kings, yet remembering that he gave himself for us first.
Though we ought not to be afraid of God so that we avoid him, we must not minimize his majesty. Nor may we diminish his holiness. Biblical fear of the Lord brings us to our knees in worship, so that God might lift our faces and embrace us with his love. True fear of the Lord helps us never forget that our Friend is also the King of Kings, that the One who died for our sins is also the Judge of our sins.
Throughout the opening chapters of Isaiah, we are repeatedly confronted with God’s judgment. Not only the chosen people, but also the pagan nations are condemned for their wickedness. Yet, every now and then, a glimmer of hope shines through the darkness. Isaiah 32:1-2 is such a ray of light.
Isaiah calls Israel to “return . . . to the One you have so greatly revolted against” (31:6). The fact that God’s people have rebelled against him does not preclude them from turning back to God.
In times of suffering, it can seem as if God is completely absent. We wonder if God has forgotten about us completely. The good news is that he continues to be with us, even when we cannot perceive him. In time, he will make himself known with new clarity and intimacy. He will teach us, and we will be in a place to learn with open minds and hearts.
That last line of verse 15 unsettles me. I wonder how many times God has offered me his help, but I “would have none of it.” I wonder how often God has offered me the gifts of rest and quietness, but I have been unwilling to trust him.
In Isaiah 29, the Lord indicts his people for saying the right things while their hearts are far away from him. They profess faithfulness to God, but their desires are selfish and idolatrous. Rather than seeking God’s glory, they live for themselves. Their worship is “by the book,” but not “by heart.” They do the right things but don’t do them as a genuine act of self-offering to God.
In the midst of foretelling his judgment of his people for their unfaithfulness, the Lord offers a surprising word of hope. He is laying “a stone in Zion” (28:16). This “tested stone” is “a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation” on which one can build without fear that one’s structure will come tumbling down.
Isaiah 27 foresees the exile of Israel and, beyond that, the time in which God will gather his people once again. Though they have been scattered throughout the world, the Lord will bring them back to their land and to himself.
Do you know what it’s like to wait for God? I expect you do if you’ve walked with the Lord for even a little while. We all experience the desire for God to act. We pray with expectation and hope, even fervor. Yet sometimes nothing happens. We pray again, trying to have faith that moves mountains. But, still, nothing happens. We begin to wonder if God is listening. We wonder why God doesn’t act, why he seems to be so frustratingly slow.